Woman sits on floor teaching young child sitting at desk.

Re-Entering the Workforce Post-Divorce as an Educator in Oregon

It’s not uncommon that after a divorce, individuals find themselves re-entering the workforce after years of being a stay-at-home parent. This can feel daunting, overwhelming, and, understandably, lead to honest conversations about where their strengths lie, and which career path is best suited for them and their family’s needs.

We recently sat down with the Chair of Teacher Education at Lewis and Clark’s Graduate School of Education, Kimberly Campbell, to talk through why their program is a great option for divorced individuals who are hoping to return to the workforce as an educator.

Is there really a need for teachers in Oregon?

“I can tell you right now, there are not enough teachers in Oregon. We have a number of schools with open positions. It has been a huge shift from what was a highly competitive market, and still is in some areas. We have a number of teachers who have decided to retire, in some cases earlier than they might have imagined, because COVID has had a real impact on schools. There's also a national prediction, because we have an aging population of teachers that are eligible for retirement, that it is going to be a booming market, and they're predicting it will be a shortage area in another year or two.”

What type of education or requirements are needed to become a teacher?

“In Oregon, you need to have a bachelor's degree. And most teachers in Oregon end up having a master's degree, particularly at the secondary level, which is middle school and high school. At our institution, we will work with you if you don't have that coursework, and we can do an assessment to determine if there's any additional coursework needed. In fact, we have a lot of people take courses at the community college level, and just bolster their background by doing this. You can do that even in the process of applying to a master's program, and we will work with you and make recommendations about what courses you need to take.”

Is this program available to people who have no prior teaching experience?

“I will actually say that that's the majority of the people with whom we work in our master's program. There are people that are coming to us who have been doing other things, but in the back of their minds, they've always been interested in teaching.”

How long does the program take to complete?

“So if you've been a teacher in the past, you may be able to get back in a matter of months by doing these additional courses and any required testing. If you're starting a master's degree, our master's program takes 13 months; we start in June, and then run to July of the following year. It's a full-time program with coursework and a yearlong student teaching, or teaching practicum, experience.”

If the program is full-time, is it really do-able for parents who are balancing busy schedules?

“So we call it a full-time program. Having said that, I have candidates this year who are parents, and then I have some who are also working part time jobs. It's tough, and I wonder sometimes about when they sleep, but we are absolutely committed to supporting them and helping them meet all the expectations of the program. When I went back to teaching high school, that's when I also started my family, and I was able to do that because the teaching profession has some flexibility. For example, my hours were seven to three, so I could be home in the afternoons when my kids were little, and that was really helpful for me. I also had summers. I know there's criticism of teachers having summers off, but I will tell you, you're going to earn your summer off, because you're going to work about the same number of hours you would work in a full year, you're just going to do it in nine months. But what that does is give you some flexibility because some of your work can be done at home.”

What advice do you have for anyone who’s considering applying?

“We're very clear, you really have to want to do this work. You can't phone it in. It takes a lot, and particularly the first couple of years of teaching, when you're really still developing the craft of teaching. Generally people that come to us have been thinking about teaching for quite a while, and it's really their opportunity to, despite the challenges, dive in and do work that's important. I will tell you, when you're in a classroom and watch a student connect with a book, or write a beautiful sentence, or understand a mathematical concept, and you get to witness that, there isn't anything that's more exciting than that. It's really powerful.”

If you have additional questions, you can find Kimberly’s full interview on our podcast, Modern Family Matters, or you can contact her via email at kimberly@lclark.edu.